- Sunday, 18 December 2011 12:54 Hits: 4045
A little bit of seasonal magic from an enchanted island; around 70 fallen trees in the village and no properties damaged, although one had a close call with a sycamore and one greenhouse lost its life.
The recent storms have left me reflecting on what community means, and more specifically on what it means for Rum. The wind brought down a huge number of trees, some of which blocked the roads. We were lucky in three ways; none of our houses were damaged, we happened to have a visiting group from the Scottish School of Forestry, and the roofers working on the castle had a telehandler which enabled the dangerously leaning trees to be taken down safely. Without the forestry students, roofers and SNH our roads wouldn’t have been cleared, and the tree hanging precariously over one of our kerosene tanks wouldn’t have been made safe. There aren’t enough words to express the extreme gratitude felt by the community, and I still can’t quite believe our good luck.
It was a good example of the symbiotic relationship between the community and Scottish Natural Heritage here - a few community members continue to regard SNH with suspicion, but “SNH” on the island is not a faceless entity, it’s our friends, our colleagues, the ones who pitch in with chainsaws and tractors and goodwill to help out when things need doing. For a long time community identity was defined in opposition to SNH, but with community ownership of the village that identity is no longer valid. I wonder if other communities have experienced this, and how they re-defined themselves once they got what they wanted?
Our population is depleted; Harry and Sally escaped to the mainland, one of our yurt-dwellers has gone in search of work elsewhere, our pier master and his family are spending some time away, and the seasonal ghillies have gone. Yet there are no houses available for more people to join us, we’re stuck with what we’ve got. I feel there’s still a sense of people waiting for someone else to do things for them; it used to be SNH, now it’s the Community Trust. It’s as though no-one’s quite realised yet that everyone is the Community Trust, everyone has to do a little bit, because there are so few of us here that the ones who’ve always done everything are flagging and needing a rest. Nothing is going to happen unless the community makes it happen, not even with me here prompting and prodding and pushing.
We are making progress, though. The Trust now has a policy for selling or leasing housing plots and a policy for allocating new homes. From January everyone is going to be contributing towards the cost of maintaining the water supply, also in community ownership, and from March residents will contribute to the cost of maintaining the roads. This will make more money available for more interesting projects, or at the very least will go towards making our hard-to-treat houses a bit warmer. There's been a lot of preparation and planning: we have a Climate Challenge Fund application under consideration, and this month has brought good news on the funding front, although we’re still awaiting the official offer letter – both of our LEADER applications were successful. Our feasibility study for the Byre project can go ahead in January and we’re in the process of selecting our architect. We can also go ahead with building the island’s first disabled-access toilet, putting two wigwam cabins on the campsite, and cleaning up the pier so it looks less like arriving at an industrial estate and more like arriving at the gateway to a National Nature Reserve.
Hopefully once things start happening, it will give people more confidence and enthusiasm; maybe it will even encourage people to volunteer as directors now that we’re two down and two more will stand down in May, having served their maximum 3 years in a row. I have the feeling that 2012 is going to be a year of action and I’m very much looking forward to it.